A Visit to Coloma


The original site of the sawmill on the bank of the American River.

Coloma is the site of Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, where James Marshall in January 1848 first found flecks of gold in the tailrace of the sawmill he was building for Captain John Sutter. My husband and I took our two grand-daughters on an excursion there yesterday.

For California history enthusiasts, it is a great place to visit, although I do not recommend it on a hot August afternoon. A variety of buildings and mining equipment are spread throughout the park. Walking between them in the heat is desiccating, and leads to spending too much time in the air-conditioned gift shop.


Today’s sawmill is only a short way from the site of the first one.

The last time I was here, more than twenty years ago, they were working on a replica of Sutter’s Sawmill. The completed mill is a fine sight. The original was in the process of being built when Marshall found gold. His Mormon workers stayed on to finish the job before they went looking for gold for themselves, and then made their way over the Sierras to seek their families and their church at the Great Salt Lake.


The Mormon Workers Cabin

Some of the buildings are replicas, but many are original. The two stone Chinese stores with iron doors, the Mormon workers cabin, the remains of the jail, the Monroe home and the blacksmith shop are all authentic. There is a fine museum, replica Indian dwellings, and a Nature Center. Pretty much something for everyone. We had a good time, in spite of the heat.  And I found my book for sale in the gift shop!




The museum has a display of artifacts belong to James Marshall: Marshall’s rifle (a fine-looking piece), Marshall’s walking stick, Marshall’s milk can. And . . . Marshall’s batea, the first batea I’ve ever seen.




If only John Bidwell had seen this batea, the Gold Rush might have happened much sooner, and John Bidwell and his friend Pablo Gutierrez would be heralded as the discoverers of gold. Click here to read the story of the batea.


That’s a batea!


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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